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Oceana Unveils High Levels of Seafood Fraud in Denmark

22 September 2014

DENMARK - The marine conservation organization Oceana, the Danish newspaper Søndagsavisen and the TV program “Go’Aften Denmark” conducted a study revealing that 18 per cent of cod sold in fishmongers is not actually cod, but haddock or saithe.

In total, 120 samples were collected from fishmongers, supermarkets and restaurants in the wider Copenhagen region in order to undergo DNA analysis.

This study is remarkable in that it indicates high levels of fraud among fishmongers showing that there are gaps in the traceability system and chain of custody in Denmark. Previous studies carried out in several other European countries have shown both higher (32 per cent overall in Italy, 30 per cent of all hake in Spain, 19 per cent of cod in Ireland) and lower (France 3.5 per cent , the UK 6 per cent ) fraud than in the study conducted in Copenhagen.

“Seafood fraud is an extensive practice throughout Europe due to weaknesses in the current traceability systems for fish, and low levels of control checks from authorities responsible for the appropriate labeling of seafood. This fact not only represents a mockery to consumers; but also undermines worldwide conservation efforts by creating a black hole in the market where illegal catches are sold,” says Maria Jose Cornax, Fisheries Campaigns manager for Oceana in Europe.

Although haddock and saithe are closely related to cod, it is still fraudulent to sell these species as cod to the consumer. These two species tend to be cheaper than cod, therefore resulting in monetary loss for the consumer. The lack of traceability in fisheries is a big problem for consumers as the current labeling system often makes it difficult to know where and how the fish were caught. Looking at cod for example, in some waters it can be found in great abundance whereas in other areas such as the North Sea, it is in very poor condition.

“It is unfortunate that Danish consumers are being misled into believing that they are buying cod, when in many cases they are instead paying overprice for either haddock or saithe. Consumers should not only have the right to know what species of fish they buy, but also how and in what area it is being caught in order to be able to make eco-friendly choices,” states Hanna Paulomäki, Project Manager at Oceana’s Baltic Sea Office.

Oceana has also previously carried out extensive studies on seafood fraud in the USA, which was the biggest study of its kind, and in France, in collaboration with Bloom.

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